Sprint Fends Off Naysayers, Adding Subscribers and Cutting Losses

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Sprint just said "neener neener neener" to critics who predicted it would lose more than 300,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter.

In its latest earnings report released Tuesday, America’s third-largest wireless carrier said it added 58,000 postpaid subscribers, ending the year with 53.9 million subscribers across all of its platforms (postpaid, prepaid, wholesale and affiliate). The company’s quarterly revenue was $9.1 billion, but perhaps most importantly, it cut its net loss from the year-ago quarter by 22 percent, to $1 billion. Operating loss for the quarter was $576 million, down from $738 million in Q4 2012.

While the loss isn’t much to celebrate, it was better than analysts were expecting. And for those assuming that T-Mobile with its "uncarrier" strategy and a heap of good press was poised to overtake the No. 3 wireless carrier, Sprint let it be known that it won’t back down easily.

The Overland Park, Kan.-based operator still has a lot of work to do. Its subscriber growth was measly compared to the hundreds of thousands of new customers AT&T and T-Mobile each picked up last quarter, and the 1.7 million for Verizon Wireless.

Sprint sold 5.6 million smartphones last quarter, totaling 20.5 million for the year 2013.

It’s been a year of transition for Sprint, which sold 70 percent of itself to Japan’s SoftBank for more than $20 billion. With all of that new cash, Sprint bought spectrum-rich Clearwire. The carrier is still expanding its 4G LTE network.

Meantime, Sprint recently unveiled its new "Framily Plan," a pricing program available to new and existing customers that lets consumers decide who they consider family. The more people added to the group (up to 10 phone lines), the greater the savings for everyone on the plan.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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